Thomas Nagel explains about Alvin Plantinga and his goddy epistemology.
You know how it goes. Having reliable cognitive faculties as a result of natural selection is not credible, while having them as a result of goddy selection is. (But then explain God. I know, that’s old news, but still – if the first thing isn’t credible, why is God credible? Why is the first any less credible than the second?)
We form our beliefs in various reliable ways – perception, rational intuition, memory. Also one more way.
So far we are in the territory of traditional epistemology; but what about faith? Faith, according to Plantinga, is another basic way of forming beliefs, distinct from but not in competition with reason, perception, memory, and the others. However, it is
a wholly different kettle of fish: according to the Christian tradition (including both Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin), faith is a special gift from God, not part of our ordinary epistemic equipment. Faith is a source of belief, a source that goes beyond the faculties included in reason.
A special gift from God? Not part of our ordinary epistemic equipment?
Why? Why make it a special gift? Why do it in that patchwork way? Why not include it as part of the standard equipment? Why make it a special upgrade?
And if it’s a wholly different kettle of fish, why include it as another basic way of forming beliefs? Why treat it as basic at all?
God endows human beings with a sensus divinitatis that ordinarily leads them to believe in him. (In atheists the sensus divinitatis is either blocked or not functioning properly.)
Uh huh. It’s the same old cheat. If you don’t believe in “God” (meaning the local God, because of course it’s not good enough to believe in the wrong one), something is broken. It’s not part of the ordinary equipment, but on the other hand if yours doesn’t hook you up to the right god then the only explanation is that something is amiss.
If all this is true, then by Plantinga’s standard of reliability and proper function, faith is a kind of cause that provides a warrant for theistic belief, even though it is a gift, and not a universal human faculty.
Well, so you say, but it looks to me like just plain having it both ways. It’s basic but special, and it’s universal but it’s often broken. Giving it a Latin name doesn’t solve the problem.